This past Thursday, the Obama Administration quietly introduced a new endeavor intended to address the environmental effects of manmade objects that travel at supersonic speeds. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney revealed the program, adding that, “In the eight years preceding this Administration, no attention was given to residual supersonic atmospheric disturbances, especially on healthcare costs. This President will step up where others before him would not.”
Put simply, how do we repair the sound barrier?
The massive program, funded at an estimated $8.7 billion, is comprised of both research and policy advancements. The science will be provided in a joint effort between two national laboratories, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado and Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois. Regulatory measures will be implemented and enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) out of Washington, D.C.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy stated in a written release Friday that, “We are proud to accept this responsible position as world citizens in owning up to the effects of our historical aggression with air speed.” Andrea Saul, spokesperson for NCAR, added that, “The sound barrier is there for a reason. It is high time that we understand the cumulative effects of breaking it.”
The Department of Energy’s Fermilab communicated their commitment to the program with actions much louder than words. On July 23, the high-energy physics lab took delivery of a 50-foot-wide electromagnet that will be devoted to the research project. The enormous device traveled 3,200 miles over 35 days across land, oceans, and rivers to make its way to its Illinois destination (see photos and videos of the big move here). Fermilab scientists will use the device to study the positions of air particles at the moment of the transonic zone, the point at which an object moves from subsonic to supersonic. “This task is a welcome focus for us after retiring the Tevatron proton-antiproton accelerator two years ago.”
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